The sales funnel metaphor is somewhat misleading; in real life, the process never goes as smoothly as liquid down a funnel. In the last decade, digital marketing, artificial intelligence (AI), and CRM have drastically changed the process of converting new leads into customers. Given this, it’s increasingly important that business-to-business (B2B) sales and marketing teams are aligned in their views on a sales funnel strategy and lead generation as a whole.

Unscrupulous affiliates can squat on domain names with misspellings and get a commission for the redirect. They can populate online registration forms with fake or stolen information, and they can purchase AdWords on search terms the company already ranks high on, and so on. Even if the terms and conditions are clear, an affiliate marketing program requires that someone monitor affiliates and enforce rules.


Eventually, your company’s marketing program will get so big that you can’t — possibly — manage everything via Outlook, Word, and Excel spreadsheets. You could always hire a team of marketing specialists, but eventually, you’re going to start wasting cash on redundant tasks like emailing new customers, setting up social media-to-email programs, and emailing your users every time you post blog content.
At the start of this article, I talked about making customers, not finding them, but you can only make customers out of leads. Because your sales funnel only works if you put people in the top, let’s look at some tips to help you find more leads. Not everything will work for every business. Choose the methods that work best for you in terms of your available resources and what works for your audience.
Quality content is more likely to get shared. By staying away from creating "thin" content and focusing more on content that cites sources, is lengthy and it reaches unique insights, you'll be able to gain Google's trust over time. Remember, this happens as a component of time. Google knows you can't just go out there and create massive amounts of content in a few days. If you try to spin content or duplicate it in any fashion, you'll suffer a Google penalty and your visibility will be stifled.
The Internet has increased the prominence of affiliate marketing. Amazon popularized the practice by creating an affiliate marketing program whereby websites and bloggers put links to the Amazon page for a reviewed or discussed product to receive advertising fees when a purchase is made. In this sense, affiliate marketing is essentially a pay for performance marketing program where the act of selling is outsourced across a vast network.
Data insights are again the key to funnel optimization. Three other data-driven technologies follow analytics and sales reporting as the most popular sales tools: account and contact management (65%), sales forecasting tools (56%), and customer relationship management (CRM) systems (58%). The latter is a particularly crucial tool for optimization, enabling your business to organize all customer-related data in a central location.
As an inbound marketer, it is one of my goals to generate high-quality leads for my sales team to successfully close into customers. Marketing automation has helped me streamline my own process and gives me greater visibility into what my visitors and leads are actually doing. I can quickly find what content they’re downloading, how they are responding to my emails, and how they are moving through the sales funnel. Each step of the way, I can monitor and measure how the marketing automation system I have in place is performing, and shows me where I might need to make tweaks to get better results.
The phrase, "Affiliates are an extended sales force for your business", which is often used to explain affiliate marketing, is not completely accurate. The primary difference between the two is that affiliate marketers provide little if any influence on a possible prospect in the conversion process once that prospect is directed to the advertiser's website. The sales team of the advertiser, however, does have the control and influence up to the point where the prospect either a) signs the contract, or b) completes the purchase.
First, try some cold calling. We’ve all gotten those dreaded calls from telemarketers, and while the number of hang-ups sales reps get is enough to make some people quit, this does still work. If it didn’t, people wouldn’t be doing it. The key to success with cold calling is to make sure you have a list of qualified leads. If you’re selling a product for men, for example, make sure your list is primarily male.
Marketing automation can eat up a significant portion of your client’s budget, leaving less room for your agency’s retainer. (Psst...SharpSpring’s agency pricing model is as little as 1/10th to 1/20th the cost of others). You’ll want a platform built around the needs of agencies to help you create higher-value relationships, generate monthly recurring revenue and prove your ROI. Look for a provider that lets you reinforce your brand by rebranding the platform interface, domain, login screen, and notifications. The vendor should treat you like a partner, including sending you new business referrals.
However, with all of these so-called modern conveniences to life, where technology's ever-pervading presence has improved even the most basic tasks for us such as hailing a ride or ordering food or conducting any sort of commerce instantly and efficiently, many are left in the dark. While all of us have become self-professed experts at consuming content and utilizing a variety of tools freely available to search and seek out information, we're effectively drowning in a sea of digital overload.
In a number of recent articles, where I've interviewed some of social media's rising stars such as Jason Stone from Millionaire Mentor, Sean Perelstein, who built StingHD into a global brand and Nathan Chan from Foundr Magazine, amongst several others, it's quite clear that multi-million-dollar businesses can be built on the backs of wildly-popular social media channels and platforms.
Depending on your business and industry, you could have 1,000 prospects at the top of your funnel. However, towards the end of your funnel, you may have 25 qualified leads. While these 25 prospects are more likely to convert than the ones at the top of the sales funnel, at the very end, there may only be five customers who make a purchase and only two that go on to become repeat customers.

Getting this timing right prevents losing prospects by bombarding them with too much information or giving them the hard sell too early. This is why moving prospects through the funnel is often called “nurturing.” Seventy-eight percent of business buyers seek salespeople who act as trusted advisors with knowledge of their needs and industry. Prospects should ideally only receive the information and sales help they need when they need it.


There’s a ton of organic traffic you can get from search engines if you do SEO properly. The days when Search Engine Optimization was about cheating Google are gone. Today, it is about making your website better for visitors. People naturally look for information online. That’s why you should learn the basics of on-page SEO, keyword research and link building to be the information source they find first. Who wouldn’t want to rank #1 for terms such as “best product” or “product review” in Google?
Organic SEO's flip-side offers up a paid method for marketing on search engines like Google. SEM provides an avenue for displaying ads through networks such as Google's Adwords and other paid search platforms that exist across the web throughout social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and even video sites like YouTube, which, invariably, is the world's second largest search engine.
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